My father, Rev. Fred Filer, grew up in the town of Caerphilly, Wales (Caerffili) and ever since my very first trip overseas in 1973, I have made it my first destination. When I first began visiting there my two old uncles, George and Reg, were still living in the family home on Windsor Street. Every time I go to Caerphilly, I pass by the house where my father and his 6 brothers and 1 sister were raised.
I still have cousins living in Caerphilly and the nearby towns so it is a family reunion each time I'm there. These days I stay with my cousin Andrea and her husband Paul in their grand old mansion that was once a mining boss's house. Down the street from Andrea's house is St Martin's church where some of my relatives are buried in the church graveyard. Unfortunately Andrea's mom, Sheila suffered a major stroke a few years ago and is confined to a care facility.
St Martin's Church
Caerphilly has a long and interesting history. When dad grew up there it was mainly a mining town. Dad worked in the mines at nearby Bedwas from the time he was 14 yrs old until he was in his 20's. When the mining strikes began in late 1920's - 1930, he lost his mining card because he was a union organizer, so her immigrated to Canada as a farm worker. Later he became a Baptist minister.
The town is located in the Rhymney Valley and gave its name to Caerphilly cheese which originated in the area.
Around AD 75 the Romans built a fort there during their conquest of Britain. Following the Norman invasion of Wales in the late 11th century the area remained in welsh hands. In the 12th century the area was under control of the Welsh chieftain Ifor ap Meurig. His grandson Gruffyd ap Rhys was the last Welsh lord in the area. In 1266 the English nobleman Gilbert de Clare took the area and began the construction of Caerphilly Castle on April 11, 1268.
I love this castle as I grew up hearing stories about it. My father used to play in the castle when he was a boy. So I call it "my castle" (which amuses my cousins), and every time I visit I make sure I take a tour there to check on things. Caerphilly Castle is the largest castle in Wales, second largest in Britain (after Windsor) and one of the best preserved. There is an interesting story about the castle. It is said to be haunted by 'the Green Lady', who was the unfortunate wife of Gilbert de Clare. You can read about it here: http://www.europeupclose.com/article/the-green-lady-of-caerphilly-castle/
I love to explore the castle and imagine what it was like at the time of Gilbert de Clare. Every time I go there are new displays. It's certainly well worth a visit especially if you like castles!
Take a stroll around the moat and lake and visit the Druid stone circle.
Originally, Caerphilly was just a small settlement south of the castle. Now the town has grown, almost become a bedroom community of Cardiff to the south. During the 1700s it was a market town. Today it's a bustling, pretty place, surrounding the castle. I always enjoy my walks through town and that breathtaking view you get of the castle.
A good place to enjoy it is at the Old Courthouse Pub where you can sit out on the patio with a fabulous view while you eat your fish and chips and have a pint of beer or a glass of wine.
There are some good pubs around the town and I always get together with my cousins. This time there were just a few of us but we had fun, and I was able to sign a copy of my book for Nicola.
I'll be back again next year, if possible. Caerphilly is like a second home to me!
NEXT: Back to London for the Historical Fiction Writer's conference.